Even though I'm still fairly green in beauty editor years, the number of products I've tested in my time at both Byrdie and Who What Wear falls just under (give or take) 3000. How did I come up with that number? On a slim week, I receive at least 20 products from brands to try and review. Multiply that by four weeks in a month, then by 12 months in a year, then by three years, and you'll land at a whopping 2880. Folks, that's a lot of beauty products. And honestly, I really try to test it all. Even if I can't use a product myself (for instance, if a serum has an ingredient my skin is sensitive to), I'll enlist my mom, a trusted friend, or someone else at the office to give the formula a test-drive for me. Despite the gazillions of product and brand launches that seem to occur on a weekly cadence, it is possible to stay on top of the beauty industry's ever-pumping pulse. Not surprisingly, that territory comes with lots of highs (products that are legitimately wonderful) and lots of lows (products that are scarily inept). Here at Who What Wear, we always keep it real and only recommend the things we really truly tried, wore for more than two minutes, and loved.
That said, there is only a select collection of hair, skin, makeup, and body products I'm so extremely satisfied with that I would happily use them for the rest of my life with zero FOMO. And here's the real kicker: I was using a hearty helping of said beauty products before I was a beauty editor and just a super nitpicky consumer. When you're trying so many products every second of every day, it can be easy to forget what's really, really amazing and what's just mediocre. So in an effort to get back to the basics and highlight the true, best-of-the-best beauty products I'm obsessed with, I've created a list. After three years as a beauty editor and after having tested roughly 3000 beauty products, here are my top 39. Keep scrolling!
Aside from shampoo and conditioner, this do-it-all leave-in is truly the only other hair product I would need in my life—a true, desert-island necessity that detangles, staves off UV and heat damage, glosses, strengthens, repairs… everything.
I have a pile of Slip's silk scrunchies in various sizes sitting on my vanity. I use them to swoop my hair up into a high bun every single night to preserve my style. And I usually keep one on my wrist at all times for good measure as well.
A message from me and every single celebrity hairstylist I've ever talked to. Please stop using your normal towel to dry or wrap your hair post-wash. Use one of these brilliant lightweight twists from Aquis instead.
I get that not everyone is a self-tanning kind of person. That said, if you are, or if you're curious, this one from Australian brand Bondi Sands is the best I've tried in a long, long time. It really gives you that coveted "golden" tan, it lasts forever, smells wonderful (like coconut!), and fades—god bless—so dang evenly. (Just make sure to use a mitt, please!)
Once you try these cleansing cloths from Koh Gen Do, you will never use anything else to clean your face in a pinch, refresh after a workout, or swipe away stubborn makeup. They're made from certified organic cotton in Japan and are drenched in mineral-rich spa cleansing water and other soothing essential herbs.
Everyone I consult agrees with me: This cleanser is truly the best at ridding your complexion of every last particle of dirt, debris, and makeup. You don't need to get super strategic with your cleanser, and this one is perfect for both day, night, and every single skin type. If you're tripping over the price, a dime-size amount is all you'll need, so one bottle will last you twice as long as other options.
I've recently become obsessed with this serum-essence hybrid from Facile, which has green tea extract, hyaluronic acid, and soothing aloe. I apply it after cleanser and before my SPF or moisturizer. It delivers instant and long-lasting hydration and makes my complexion noticeably brighter, plumper, and dewier.
M-61's glow-enhancing peel pads are game-changing. Use them a few nights per week to easily exfoliate your skin, and you'll wake up with a smoother, brighter, healthier-looking complexion. I can't live without them, and they're one of the best skincare products on the market IMO.
But I'm also obsessed with this lip balm from Fresh—don't make me choose! This one has the yummiest taste/scent, keeps my lips chap-free forever, enhances their shape, and is also great underneath makeup. (Typically, I'll layer the one from PCA Skin over top!)
I don't know about you, but I hold about 10 tons of tension in my jaw. Ugh—stress, am I right? Alas, this facial massager from Joanna Czech is a makeup artist secret for lifting and boosting drainage and circulation. I like to roll my facial knots out with at the end of the long day, or run it over my complexion before a night out to prevent bloat the next day.
If you're going to buy a brow serum, make it this one. I swear Joey's expert formula speeds up my grow-out, but I also swear by it as the absolute best pomade/clear gel. I use it every single morning to comb and brush my brows into perfect place while reaping all of its growth and nutrition perks during the day!
There are only about three primers I one million percent believe in, and this hydrating, hyaluronic acid–spiked one from Tarte is the absolute best. Apply it after moisturizer, pre-foundation, and your makeup will never look the same (in the best way possible).
Believe it or not, there's a big difference between eyelash curlers. As someone who hasn't gone a day in my life since the seventh grade without curling my long lashes, I can say with total certainty that Lash Star makes the absolute best model for a lifted, long-lasting curl.
3. Physicians Formula The Healthy Foundation With SPF 20
There are two types of people in the world: Beautyblender stans and foundation brush stans. I'm the former and can't live without mine. Tip: Wash your sponge every day before you use it with a good ol' fragrance-free bar soap (like Dove) and water. Your skin will stay cleaner, and your blender will last longer!
5. MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix 24-Hour Liquid Concealer
I have a few concealers I really truly adore, but if I had to choose just one to use for the rest of my life, I would have to choose this little baby from MAC. It stays put, it has amazing coverage, and the shade range is fantastic. I wish I could say I've never actually put it to the 24-hour test the name suggests, but I definitely have and it definitely withstood. I use my Beautyblender to apply it, and since it is a long-wear formula (and therefore not super moisturizing), I'll spritz my Beautyblender again with rose water right before I start with the concealer. (I love Chantecaille's.)
That said, if you're a liquid or cream highlight person, Armani Beauty has this OG elixir that is still the one I hold as the ultimate gold standard. I've used it since college and still insist on buying it despite the higher price point.
Don't get me wrong. I love Nars's cult-classic blushes, but honestly, I think Hourglass's are better. I used to use these all the time—Diffused Heat and Radiant Magenta are my fave shades—and then went on a long spree of trying tons of new brands and formulas. When I reverted and used Diffused Heat again recently, it felt like coming home. If it ain't broke! Fun fact: You can buy a regular size or adorable minis.
This might be a controversial opinion, but after lots and lots of testing, I dub Tarte's double-sided liners the absolute best. I love using the pencil end to get in between my lashes and along my waterline, and then the liquid side is perfect for flicks and creating more dramatic cat eyes if you are so inclined. I appreciate the array of colors and have been gravitating toward the brown recently for a more subtle change of pace.
Bronzer is tough, and I think I've been convinced about 10 different times that I've loved 10 different bronzers. But truly, in terms of color and application, I'm a firm believer that Too Faced makes the absolute best options. I know the packaging and chocolate-infused formula might seem cutesy, but this bronzer reigns supreme. I've recently come back to it after trying about 40 other bronzers. FYI—there's a matte and a shimmer version. I prefer the matte, but you do you!
I'm a bit of a mascara and lash fiend, but I'm forcing myself to choose one mascara and one mascara only here. Glossier's is the best for length and separation, no questions asked. And if you wait a hot second between coats, it actually builds up volume better than you'd expect.
13. Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray
If I'm wearing makeup, I never leave the house without spraying my face with this iconic setting spray. Seriously, I've been known to get as far as five minutes away from home and having to go back for a dose of this magic mist.
I'm not a huge eye shadow person, but on days (or nights) when I want a little more than my bronzer or blush (which I often use to add some depth to my lids), I'll apply a touch of this Lid Lustre from Victoria Beckham Beauty. They're stunning on their own or layered over whatever you typically use on your eyes. Somehow, the finish never verges OTT or cheesy—no matter how wild you go with your application.